Was the search the police did of my daughter and her boyfriend’s room legal?

My adult daughter and her boyfriend were renting a room from me in the home I
own and also live in. The state police came to my home without a warrant
looking for my daughter’s boyfriend. My daughter and her boyfriend were not
home so when the police asked if they could ‘look around to make sure he wasn’t
hiding somewhere’ I consented. The police asked me what room belonged to my
daughter’s boyfriend and I pointed to the room and he just opened the door and
walked into their room and moved a bunch of things from the floor to look in
the closet and found 12 marijuana plants growing there. Now the cop asks me,
‘is this the boyfriend’s room exclusively?’ I said ‘Well, no. He shares it
with my daughter.’ The officer then told me that my daughter and her boyfriend
will both be charged for growing the plants they found and then he called his
partner into the room and they proceeded to open and go through every purse and
bag and anything else they could find in that room. My question is, since they
were renting that room from me and that room was exclusively theirs, did the
officer have a legal right to even open the door to that room or was he out of
line because of the ‘third party consent’ rules that say they may only search
common areas of the home?

Asked on June 12, 2016 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Under the facts that you describe, the officers really needed your daughter's or boyfriend's consent to search the room since they had a right to privacy.  So... on it's face, this looks to be an invalid search.  However, to know for sure, your daughter needs to get an attorney to review the entire case file to make sure that the officer did not have a warrant or other factors which would have justified a warrantless search.  This would mean looking at the offense report and any patrol videos associated with the search.  Officers often include details that they don't disclose to third parties which can and do substantially impact a case.  To get these items, you can file an open records request or your daughter's attorney can file a request for discovery.

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